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Athletes Foot

Alternate Names

  • tinea pedis
  • dermatophytosis

Definition

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that affects the top layer of the skin.

What is going on in the body?

Athlete's foot is usually caused by a fungus called Trichophyton. It is a common condition that affects some people more often than others. The infection is generally limited to the top layer of skin.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Sometimes this condition becomes so uncomfortable that the person cannot perform his or her daily routine. If the infection causes skin breakdown, a bacterial infection can result. Bacterial infection can be very harmful, and sometimes, life threatening.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the disease?

To prevent this condition:
  • use an antifungal powder in the shoes
  • wash socks in an antifungal solution
  • change socks daily
  • wash feet regularly with soap and water, and dry completely with a clean towel or cloth

Diagnosed

How is the disease diagnosed?

Most people know when they have athlete's foot by its common symptoms. A definite diagnosis, if desired, can be obtained by sending skin scrapings to a laboratory to be analyzed.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the disease?

Symptoms, such as itching, can linger. Sometimes this limits a person's ability to comfortably perform his or her daily routine. The most dangerous long-term effect would be a bacterial infection caused by skin breakdown.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Athlete's foot is thought to be mildly contagious. Many people who are exposed to it do not develop athlete's foot, however. Some healthcare professionals advise wearing foot thongs or sandals in public showers and locker rooms. This may help reduce the risk of catching athlete's foot.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the disease?

Athlete's foot is easy to treat at home using an over-the-counter antifungal cream. The creams may contain tolnaftate (i.e., Tinactin), miconazole (i.e., Micatin, Monistat-Derm), or other medicines.
If over-the-counter creams do not work, a prescription medicine will be needed. The healthcare professional may prescribe antifungal pills, such as itraconazole (i.e., Sporanox) or fluconazole (i.e., Diflucan). Once the infection has healed, a person should follow the prevention measures listed above. The best way to avoid problems is to check the feet often for signs of anything unusual.

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